I want to write about Freya’s second birthday; about the fun we had and the love that wrapped around her like a soft blanket as all four of her grandparents came together to celebrate with us.
And I will.
But something has been blocking me.
These words: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
This phrase used as “recognition that others’ misfortune could be one’s own” perfectly illustrates how I feel at the moment regarding the so-called “migrant crisis”.
As the days have passed and more and more awful stories have come out about what is happening I still thought: “I can’t write about this. Firstly, I blog about mummy things. Secondly, I’m not there reporting, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Thirdly, I don’t have any solution so really I should just stay quiet”.
While many of those things remain true, it’s got to the point now where I can’t not write about it because I know that in slightly different circumstances, instead of celebrating Freya’s birthday with a lovely trip to the zoo, the generations of our family might well have been among those desperately fleeing.
How many of us would have made it? Would my elderly parents have survived the torturous journey to supposed safety? What about Freya? The photos of drowned children washed up on a beach or the little girl in a pink skirt, who could well be her age, floating lifeless and alone in the water, have been playing on my mind.
Imagine how hard things must have been for them to take the risk that what they were going towards was something better, something worth the struggle, than what they were leaving behind. I’ve visited a refugee camp and even one well established with charities and NGOs in place is hell on earth. Leaving everything you know for this is never an easy option.
If you take notice of many of the news stories, we see “migrants” as coming over here to steal our jobs, as scroungers wanting to bleed our already over-burdened NHS dry, as criminals out to do us harm.
What we don’t see them as is people. Men, woman and children. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Families. Real people with feelings, fears, hopes and dreams, just like us. People who had built a home with what resources they had, a life they perhaps once enjoyed, which they were forced to leave because of war or persecution or even just the chance of a better life – and, really, isn’t that what we are all striving for?
The only difference between them and us is that we had the good fortune to be born in a different, relatively safe, country.
Until we recognise those fleeing not as “migrants” but as people, until we recognise many of those dying not as “migrants” but as children, who could just as easily be our toddlers, I don’t think we will go forward.
The trouble is, those in charge can’t hear us if we don’t speak.
* There are many petitions but I have chosen to support this one, via Change.org, which asks that: “The government gives immediate sanctuary to refugees fleeing from war and violence. We are not asking that they be given permanent residence but that as a humanitarian act they are given a place of sanctuary while their futures are decided.”